First Time Camp Parent

Dear First Time Camp Parent,

I bet you can count the number of days you’ve been away from your daughter on one hand.  Maybe two.  And now you are staring down weeks of time and distance between you and the person that matters most to you.  Yeah, it’s hard. I am about to send my daughters off to Camp Jeanne d’Arc for their fourth summer, and it’s still hard.  Here are some things to remember about how first-time camper parents can prepare for the transition to camp:

Worried about Homesickness

Pep talk time. I know they might roll their eyes or complain that you are being “cringe” but do it anyway.  Give them a pep talk before camp begins. Let them know that the first few days might be tough, but by pushing past their comfort zone they will grow emotionally, make lifelong friends, and experience a summer they will remember forever.

The best way to support a nervous first-time camper is through brief, frequent communication via electronic letters.  Make sure you understand how electronic letters work and assure your child you can communicate frequently. Use phrases like “I can’t wait to hear about your adventures”, “I’m so proud of you for pushing outside of your comfort zone.”  Avoid ever telling your child “If you don’t like it, I’ll come and get you.” They will not allow themselves to warm up to the experience.

It’s also good to give them practical preparation. Pre-address and stamp envelopes so that your daughter can send letters to grandma, aunts, uncles, and older siblings. And supply family and friends with the tools to correspond with your kiddo.  

It is also great to tape photos or inspirational messages to the inside of their trunk. Or provide your child with a journal and writing or sketching supplies.

But mostly, keep telling them they are capable and brave and ready for the adventure of a lifetime!

But What if There is Drama?

Dropping a bunch of twelve-year olds who never met into a small cabin is bound to come with a little bit of drama. And as a first-time camper parent, you might be worried about how your child will handle friction among her cabin. Luckily, Camp Jeanne d’Arc is trained for this.  Because we are small by design, camp directors Randy and Sandy know every camper personally.  And there is a protocol for conflict in the cabins. Their crew of staff and counselors know that personality clashes and arguments will happen. They are equipped with providing campers with the communication tools and best practices to resolve them.

Plus, campers learn and grow when faced with how to support a friend or compromise with a cabin mate. Often campers who spar with each other end up growing into a tight friendship.  Or if not, they learn to coexist with personalities different then their own – a lifelong skill for sure!

What Happens if My Child Gets Sick?

Summer illnesses happen at camp. And occasionally there are injuries.  What a first time camp parent shouldn’t do is tell their child “Oh, you won’t get sick.” Instead, parents should tell their campers that there is always a plan.  

Camp Jeanne d’Arc employs certified nurses and medical staff who live in the “Nest” (the infirmary) and are available 24 hours a day. They will evaluate any camper who is sick or injured and communicate with the parents. Proper medical and emotional attention will be given to campers who are not feeling well. There is always a plan.

Will I have Access to Photos of My Child at Camp?

There honestly is nothing better than seeing a smile on your daughter’s face when they are up at camp, especially for a first time camp parent. Camp Jeanne d’Arc is excellent at posting campers having fun on the JDA  Instagram story and they send regular emails home with updates. They also have an amazing tool – Campminder – where they constantly load photos of campers throughout their days. Most weeks, I will see several photos of my daughters swimming, hiking, and enjoying the Adirondack mountain life!  One summer there was a stretch of time where my daughter seemed to be hiding from the camera – a quick email to Camp and I was able to get my eyeballs on a photo of a smiling camper worth a million bucks!

The transition to Camp for a first-time camper can be nerve-wracking for the child as well as the parent, but the experience will be worth it for all of you!

Enjoy the experience of watching your daughter fall in love with Camp!

Best, Liz